Covid-19 and ethnicity: how the information gap exacerbates inequality - The BMJ
The covid-19 pandemic has shone a light on the health and social inequalities that have historically plagued black and minority ethnic (BAME) groups in the UK. The reasons for this are many, however there are numerous examples of ongoing patterns of miscommunication, misinformation, and disinformation that have created an information gap among these groups. This acts as a key factor in differential health seeking behaviour, experiences of healthcare, and ultimately health outcomes. These are all exacerbated by a historical context in which people from BAME groups have experienced greater levels of socioeconomic disadvantage, been ignored or abused by medical science, and received poorer quality of care from the healthcare system.
As we move on to the next phase of the pandemic, incorporating the lessons we have learnt so far will be essential in preventing and managing the effects of a second wave of covid-19 on BAME groups. Using a more localised approach to outbreak management, which works in partnership with local BAME networks, would allow us to deliver an effective, culturally competent campaign that bridges information gaps. The success of these approaches is entirely dependent on the trust of local populations—particularly when it comes to systems that rely on the individual to self-refer, such as the test and trace system. Disparities in information provision are complex, however, and it is vital to approach any solution with an understanding of the social, political, and structural drivers of this phenomenon.
UK policy makers have relied on behavioural science to determine communication strategies around the covid-19 response. However, behavioural science has tended to overlook the role of cultural differences in how people make decisions and navigate choice architecture. BAME groups are not a homogenous monolith, and if we want to continue to apply behavioural science to inform the covid-19 response, then we need to ensure that behavioural insights generated from within BAME communities are included.